The first CC I wrote over at the other site was on the subject of that Canadian market special, the Envoy Epic. The write up eventually migrated over here as well, but as my first write-up, the little Epic has always had a special place in my automotive heart. It seemed like fate that I should have one for myself. If you’ve read of a few of my previous COALs, you have no doubt realized that it would only take a cheap example appearing for sale to push me over the edge into ownership.
The optimistically named Envoy Epic was a Canada-only variant of the Vauxhall Viva HA and sold at Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers. The regular Vauxhall Viva was also sold in Canada at Pontiac/Oldsmobile dealers. The Envoy differed from the Vauxhall in badging, trim and its use of the UK market higher trim Vauxhall Viva SL triple round tail light set up. The Canadian tail lights were slightly different with all lights being red as the UK set up had two red and one orange.
Given their reputation for rusting, my Epic had a shockingly solid body. Some dents and dings were present with a little bit of surface rust in places, but one look underneath or at the usual rust traps revealed nearly perfect sheet metal. Even the particularly rust-prone rear wings were fully intact. The 46k miles recorded on the odometer could very well have been original.
The tiny 1057cc four cylinder engine ran quite well at idle. If you gave it more than a quarter push of the throttle pedal it would stall, however. With a 2.925 inch bore, 2.4 inch stroke and 8.5:1 compression, the little engine developed 44hp (50hp gross) at 5,200 rpm and 62 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 rpm. It was somewhat drivable with very light and careful application of the throttle, so I limped it over to a storage yard so I could replace the accelerator pump diaphragm on the Solex B30 PSEI-6 carburetor.
Other mechanical specifications include a four-speed manual gearbox. The rear axle is a semi-floating hypoid drive with a 4.125:1 ratio suspended by semi-ecliptic leaf springs and telescopic dampers. Front suspension is independent with upper and lower control arms. A transverse leaf spring with telescopic dampers completes the front suspension, and was well loved by UK hot-rodders as it could be relatively easily transplanted as a complete unit. Steering duties are handled by a rack and pinion system with a 18:1 ratio. Wheels and tires are of a dainty 12 inch size.
While the body and engine indicated low mileage, the interior was in rough shape. Though complete, sun and the passage of time had done significant damage, making the vinyl extremely brittle and degrading the foam. The front seats looked like they had lost a fight with an angry badger. The back seat was intact and faded but was so brittle that any pressure applied cracked the vinyl.
After some research I determined mine was a Deluxe model which added the following features over the Standard:
Chrome trims around front and rear glass
Stainless gutter trims
Chrome body trim
Opening rear side windows
Chrome quarter light frames
Model badge on truck
Both seats adjustable
Chrome gauge surrounds
Black window winder/ inner door lock handles
Two sun visors
Rear arm rests and ash trays
Interior grab handles
Sticker on dash
Courtesy light switches
Two-tone colour front door cards
Extra sound deadening
Cardboard trim panels under dash
Window washer pump
This is a rather curious dealership badge on the back of my Envoy Epic. It has American Motors on one side and Klaudt’s Toyota Ltd on the other. Given the Envoy was originally sold at Chevrolet/Oldsmobile dealers in Canada, this would have been applied when it was used, likely when it was only a few years old in late 1960s or very early 1970s. That would be quite early for a stand-alone Toyota store, and it seems this dealer had a Toyota/American Motors mix. After some research it looks like Klaudt’s Toyota Ltd evolved into Parkcity Toyota after several location moves. I managed to pull the following off a cached copy of their old web page. “Our dealership history began in the late sixties with Klaudt’s Toyota, on what is now Maple Avenue, and then moved to a larger location on Kingsway Avenue.”
Another interesting sticker was on the windshield. This is a reminder of Alberta’s one year safety inspection program. It was rather ill-conceived as you could only have your car inspected in either Calgary or Edmonton, meaning that drivers in other communities had to travel hundreds of kilometers to complete the errand. The program ended after only a single year pending the availability of black market stickers and widespread complaints of less-than-honest mechanics. It does tell us the little Envoy managed to last at least five years on the road.
If you can stand looking at another vintage sticker, this fishing Alberta sticker has to be a few decades old.
My first task was to rebuild the Solex B30 PSEI-6 single barrel carburetor. Most of the mechanical parts for this car are available through various online sources. The long-lived production of the Vauxhall HA van in the United Kingdom has, no doubt, helped in this regard. The interior and trim pieces, however, are second hand only and nearly non-existent. I was able to track down a full rebuild kit. Thankfully, since this was my first attempt at a full rebuild, the little Solex was about as simple as an automotive carburetor gets.
The air cleaner lid was given a quick makeover at the same time and the engine compartment certainly looked less shabby. Now it just had to prove itself as the car had not been driven any real distance in several decades.
A forty kilometer drive home at highway speeds would flush out any weakness in the Epic. My friend Rod drove in a chase car as I suspected we would encounter some difficulty. Our first mistake was setting out at dusk which quickly became night. The headlights died (still had parking lights) about half way, so the chase car became the lead car to light the way forward. We took back roads when possible to keep speeds down. The Envoy even soldiered up a rather steep hill right at the end of the drive.
During this time I also owned the 1970 Mercedes-Benz 220D so any wrenching time had to be split between them. The Mercedes was more functional so it received more attention, initially. Still, on the Envoy I managed to straighten out a well-mangled front bumper to a presentable state. Not perfect, but where the heck would you find a replacement? Similarly, a dent on the front fender was pulled out.
The interior chrome came back to a like-new shine with the careful application of steel wool. The broken dash pad was removed and with a lick of paint, the dashboard would have been looking quite fine. The lower dashboard still needed to be installed as well as a factory GM radio. The carpets had developed an acute case of mold, so they had to be discarded. The door cards were cleaned and straightened to a more presentable state. The heater fan was restored to working condition as well as those dodgy headlights with a little bit of electrical sorting. A little electrical side note that some may find interesting is that the Epic, like some other period British cars, featured a positive ground instead of the more common negative grounding. Nothing inherently bad, you just have to be extra careful hooking up the battery and definitely do not let a department store parts jockey do it.
In the end, the Envoy left my garage because I also had the Mercedes. The Benz was licensed, insured and proved to be pretty low maintenance for a car over forty years old. In a moment of weakness, I put the Epic up on the local classified site not expecting much in response. I did get one interesting reply, however, from a man who had one as his first car decades ago. He had never had a chance to put that first one on the road and had wanted another since. While the smart thing would be to hang onto it for myself, he certainly sounded like a worthy owner so in the end, I decided to let the car go. I never restored it as planned and only managed to drive it a handful of times, but it left my care in better condition than when I found it.